So You’re the New Sales Manager – How Are You Going To Get Up To Speed Quickly?


Taking Over an Existing Team – Part 3 of 3


This is the third of three posts detailing a few quick tips I used when I was hired to take over an underperforming sales team ranked last in their region. Within six months, this team became the number one sales team in both volume and volume growth, and they held that position for the next fifty consecutive months…


To read the first post in this series, follow this link.

To read the second post in this series, follow this link.


The New Manager Questionnaire


At the end of the expectations-setting first meeting, I handed out the salesman questionnaire below (it’s really for the manager’s benefit, so we’ll call it the New Manager Questionnaire) and arranged a time to meet with each rep for one-on-one sessions to discuss their answers. Although I had twenty salespeople at the time, I really wanted to get these all done quickly, so I scheduled meetings from 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM the next day. (The salespeople chose their meeting times.)


The questionnaire was designed to give me a sense of who they were, provide them an avenue to vent about whatever it was that needed changing, and to deliver a measure of self awareness to this underperforming group.


Here are the 20 best questions you can ever ask a new sales team:


  1. Where do you see yourself in 1 year? 3 years? 10 years?
  2. What three things do you like most about your job?
  3. What three things do you like least about your job?
  4. If you could change anything about our company, what would it be and how would you change it?
  5. What should we absolutely start doing today that we’re currently not doing?
  6. What should we absolutely stop doing today that we’re currently doing?
  7. What should we absolutely continue doing that we’re currently doing?
  8. How would you describe our company to a close friend?
  9. Describe the quality and quantity of training you feel you’ve received since coming to work here. What gaps exist in the training we’ve provided?
  10. Describe your abilities as they relate to your current position.
  11. Is there a different position within our company that you feel you are better suited for than salesperson? If so, what is that position and why do you feel that way?
  12. What is your total compensation? (Include your base, bonus and any perks like car allowances.)
  13. What should be your total compensation and how can I help you achieve this?
  14. Were there ever any promises made to you by anyone at our company that have not been kept? If so, please detail these.
  15. How many hours per week do you estimate you dedicate to achieving your goals at this company?
  16. In order to become the number one salesperson in the region, how many hours a week do you think you would need to commit to the company?
  17. What must be done to grow revenue and profit in your territory?
  18. What must be done to grow revenue and profit for the whole company?
  19. On a scale of 1-10, rate the selling ability of each of the other salespeople and yourself.
  20. How would you prefer to be managed?


Why These 20 Questions?


Why are these the 20 best questions to ask your new sales team? With these 20 questions, you’ll learn more about your marketplace and your reps’ ability to execute than you will with months of observations. Each question was designed to elicit a specific response or trigger a specific paradigm shift in the salesperson:


  • Questions 1 and 11 tell you if they have ambitions beyond being a salesperson, and how to plan a career path for each sales rep.
  • Questions 2, 3 and 20 tell you how to manage the respective rep. (I put Question 20 last because this one usually provides some great dialogue and an easy transition for a handshake and an “I’ll do my best, please keep me in line” from me.)
  • Question 4 tells you if this person is just a complainer or someone who’s given real thought to the issues at hand and believes they know how to fix them.
  • Questions 5 through 8 tell you how to manage up and across. (That is, what you need to gain for your team from the other department heads and from your supervisor.)
  • Questions 9 and 10 set the stage for the amount and type of sales training and product training that needs to occur quickly.
  • Questions 12 and 13 help you understand how much motivation money provides to a particular salesperson.
  • Question 14 helps you remove all the animosity of previously broken promises (and every sales team is full of broken promises from the company). Of course, that’s only if you honor the broken promises of your predecessor.
  • Questions 15, 16 and 17 are really kind of cool, because they reveal to the salesperson, out loud, that they’re not giving all they can.
  • The aggregated answers to Question 18 will help you create plans to reach the company’s goals. (The salespeople really do have all the answers, you just have to ask them.)
  • Question 19 gives you a sense of how everyone views their teammates, and which ones are the leaders and which ones may need development, retraining or a pink slip.


I asked the sales team to come prepared to answer all of these questions during their one-on-one meeting, but that they didn’t need to bring anything written – I would take copious notes (which I did).


Hearing a sales rep tell you, out loud, that he’s a 5 on a 1-10 scale is extremely powerful. This is someone eager to learn, and the self-realization that occurs gives them a voracious appetite for direction, development and sales training.


Do You Really Mean It?


Good salespeople are good because they can read people, and they’ll always know when you’re lying. The key to this questionnaire is sincerity. You have to be sincere about wanting to know the answers to these questions, and you have to be sincere about wanting to change the things that need changing. If all you do is ask the questions and take no action, your team will never trust you and they will never perform.


It would take dozen of additional posts to share with you how I used all of these answers to shape this group into the best sales team in the region, though suffice it to say that sharing a vision and then living that vision can do wonders for a rag-tag group like I had inherited.


I encourage any leader who is taking over as a new sales manager, or any manager who is simply tired of lackluster sales, to try these questions on their own sales team. As always, I welcome your comments… Good Selling!